‘Nanu, nanu!” exclaims C. He wants to meet his Nanu, my dad, his excitement rising as he inspects the family photograph yet again. It stands in a frame in his nursery, and also features his Nani.

‘Nanu?’ His voice is a question this time. When will I meet him, Mommy?


You won’t meet him, little fella. He is no more.

Guess what happened to him?

He lost his life to COVID, this dratted virus that has killed lakhs of people around the world. Your granddad, ever so fit, ever so obsessed with his fitness tracker, succumbed to the virus after spending his last days in a hospital, unconscious.

Well, dad is gone. Mum is gone. It is only me who is left to face the rest of my days alone, without parents, expected to be a good parent to a little fellow who is oblivious to everything that is transpiring around us.

Every morning, I wake up exhausted. Fatigue is my permanent state of mind and body. They don’t tell you just how hard it is to look after a toddler without an extensive support system. I face the sunlight, get reminded of the golden sunshine of winters spent in Delhi…days and nights that will never be mine again. I have lost my drive and motivation to do anything, be anything. Composure. Patience. Fortitude. These are mere terms that can no longer describe anything I possess.

Some days -most days- it is only the need to make breakfast for C that forces me to get out of bed. He cajoles me, pulls my hair, screams ‘Mama, mama’ in a super bossy tone, and I get up, shower him with kisses, suppress my need to cry. Sometimes, I think, he keeps me sane in this entirely meaningless world.

‘You won’t meet Nanu anytime soon,’ I tell my son. ‘But we will go visit Mama’s childhood home one day.’ Nanu’s memories are there, and so are lots of toys and books and dilapidated gadgets he loved to fix and takeout menus and cricket-match listings.

Tons of things irk me. The notion that mum and dad are together in some kind of heaven, that I should be glad they are one again. The idea that this is God’s will. The expectation to be ‘strong’ especially because hey, I am a mum.

Please let me grieve the way I want to. I don’t need placations and silly statements meant to make light of this tragedy. Every day that papa spent intubated in the hospital revealed to me just how lonely I am, how little I can bank on anyone, how absurd my notions of familial ties and shared sorrows are.

Perhaps, one morning will dawn when I will be able to smile at all the moments mum, dad and I shared and accept that everything must end. But for now, life as I knew it, as I had learnt to live it after mum’s passing, has collapsed again. I want to wallow in self pity and cry a bucket of tears and then cry more about how dad will no longer ask me, ‘Are you okay, beta? Your eyes are red. Have you been drinking milk every day? Are you getting enough sleep?’

COVID is a thing of the past, apparently. They are distributing vaccines with only a few cases of uh, adverse reactions. The death toll is majorly down; people in my locality roam around with masks covering only their beards. Just the elderly and the frail are dying, you see. People like my papa, ever so fit, still happily working at a job he loved, relishing his plate of chicken tandoori and walking several kilometers every day, are exceptions.

C, someday I will tell you more about your Nanu and Nani. For now, all I want is to close my eyes and let my dreams transport me to happier times when both my parents held me tight, steadied me when I fell, and had my back at every moment of the day. It was another lifetime. Oh, let me lose myself in the memories so; maybe they will blend into my reality and I won’t be sad again.


I Believe We Once Had a Sun

Well, I cannot be sure anymore. It has been over a month since I last saw it. This morning, I stood in the balcony with a cup of coffee and tried hard to ferret it out. I looked at this corner of the sky and that, squinted, even burnt one finger, but nope, no sun. The sky was lined with bad-weather clouds; thunder growled ominously in the distance. It is official: the golden glob over our heads is a thing of the past.

In this sun-less world, I barely get by. The laundry needs to be artificially dried, which means our dryer is perpetually on. Just one of the many perks of having a newborn in the house who looks his most content when he is pooping. After a long night of glorious sleep—give me a moment to do a deep-belly laugh here please—all I want to do is feel the sun on my skin. But all I get are raindrops. And dampness. And mosquitoes. And a general brooding sense of malaise. Continue reading

Zenith, Zero

Switzerland peaks

When I was in Class V, a little boy my age taught me a life lesson. The results for the term exams had just been announced, and I had come first. I was proud and happy, excited about the gifts my family members would get for me. The latest Malory Towers book was certain to be on the list. One of my classmates appeared almost as excited, jumping about, digging into his tiffin box between classes.

“You look happy. How did you do on the exams?” I couldn’t stop myself from asking.

“I came first.”

What a liar! “That can’t be. I came first!”

“Maybe you did, from the top,” he responded nonchalantly. “I am first from the bottom.” Continue reading

You So Happy

Happiness Soap Bubbles

You giggle like a merry child when soap bubbles brush against your cheeks. You look up at the sky—so grey and ominous—and smile as if it were the most awe-inspiring sight you’d ever seen. Your conversations are full of rapture, your eyes full of dreams.

It isn’t that you are particularly young—at least not the young and oblivious they talk about in classic books. If I were to hazard a guess, I’d say you were old enough to have experienced loss—of friends and friendship, ambitions, perhaps a parent. Your fluffy yellow sweater with the polar bear imprint doesn’t fit you anymore. I can’t believe that you escape ubiquitous villains in daily life—a tyrant boss, an obsessive ex-lover, or at least a street that gets jam-packed with traffic exactly when you’re in a rush. Continue reading

Xerox Copies

They had already drunk two cups of tea each and finished a trayful of snacks. The conversation had thinned, and there were several silences punctuated by comments on “how polluted Delhi was getting”. But no one made an attempt to get up, grab their bags, and leave. It was 8.30 p.m., and since that was past both my dinner time and reading time, I was getting more fidgety by the minute.

Someone else in the living room fidgeted almost as much as I did. But the limitations of adulthood stopped him from doing anything about it. It was my Dad. Continue reading

The Thermometer Never Lies

Fever Thermometer

“But it can,” I insisted. “The battery may have run out. The mercury might be misbehaving.”

“No such luck. It is a brand new thermometer. Plus, I don’t even need one—your forehead is hot enough to make luchis on.”

It was a beautiful day outside. February in Delhi is a wonderful time. The bite of winter is gone, and the sun is golden and inviting. It was the ideal weather to go up to the roof, bite into peanuts, play with my ping-pong ball, and race with the kittens. Instead, here I was in bed, wrapped in rugs, facing the prospect of a perfectly glorious day sacrificed to fever. Continue reading

Stagnant Life

Danube, Vienna

Sometimes, nothing seems to move. Somnolent mornings transition to sleepy afternoons, and before you know it, night arrives. You wake up the morning after, unable to believe another day just went by. Another day that you spent working, fixing meals, planning to-do lists, meeting social commitments. There isn’t a single thing on the horizon that you look forward to, not even the prospect of a vacation. Because time. Money. Leave approvals. Kids. It will soon be a new month; half the year will be gone by the time you have arranged your closet. Life will go on, interspersed with births and deaths, career highs and lows, mood swings, and endless cups of coffee. But none of those will nudge life from its rut.

How bleak. How dismal. Surely, there is more to life than just surviving each day and planning for the next day in an uncannily repetitive style? Continue reading

I Don’t Know Where They Have Gone

Swing on the porch

“It has become really hot in Delhi. Perhaps, he likes to stay inside the house.”

“The weather never bothered him before.”

“Have you looked carefully in the park when you go for your evening walk?”

“He isn’t there. He isn’t in the bank, the market or the post office either.”

I didn’t know what to say, so I didn’t say anything. My grandfather went on: “He has disappeared, just like everyone else. Only I remain.” Continue reading

Dealing With Loss

Beautiful evening

It has been five years since I lost my mother to breast cancer. I have never accepted this publicly on this blog, keeping her alive in imagined conversations and shared moments that will never again be. But she doesn’t linger anywhere—not in her bedroom back in Delhi, not in the photo albums of my birthdays, not in her old clothes that I have clung on to and insist on wearing now and then. She lingers only in my memories, in a big room in my heart that she owns for the rest of my life. And while I will never let go of her, I have come to realise over time: it is essential to deal with loss. Continue reading

Acceptance – #AToZChallenge

Right from the cradle—actually, from the birth canal—we are constantly pushed. There is the push to meet developmental milestones, to be the healthiest baby around, the chirpiest toddler, the brightest student. We grow up, but the push never really lets up. For those of us who grew up amid considerable jostling, it can be hard to fathom when this push ceases being external. We internalise this drive; we beat ourselves up for missed goals, unmet deadlines, and un-kept promises.

Life needn’t be so hard.

This first day of April, as I begin the #AToZChallenge—the first time I am taking it up—I want to remind myself and anyone reading this that it is okay not to achieve certain things. Sometimes, one must accept instead.



So, this April, while I endeavour to eat healthily, I will accept that there will be days when I partake of ice-cream, fried deliciousness and one zero-nutrition snack after the other. I will attempt to reach out to people who care for me and those I hold dear. But I will willingly accept my occasional need for a cocoon into which no one may enter. Every day, I will try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time, but I won’t kill myself with guilt if I watch that Netflix series till past midnight or lie in till noon once in a while. Some dirty dishes can linger in the sink for a few hours; they won’t perish and neither will I. Continue reading